Worse Than a Bridesmaids Dress: Matthew 22:1-14
Have you ever seen someone wear white to a wedding? You have, I’m certain, because the bride wears white. But what about someone else? That’s one of those great faux pas that you can hope you never see. It’s funny how sacred we hold that kind of tradition.
Now here’s another one; have you seen a bridal party gone wrong? I’m thinking like the movie bridesmaids, when things get really out of control. I have this theory that things go wrong because bridesmaids are often forced to wear the most ridiculous outfit. You know the dresses I’m talking about--those ones with poofy sleeves or an unflattering hemline. Definitely a hideous color. So the bridesmaids get the wedding day and get so mad that they have to wear these terrible dresses that they behave just awfully.
This is why my sister, Charity’s, wedding last weekend went so well. She let the bridesmaids pick out their own dresses, so we all loved them. And therefore, it was a wonderful wedding.
Our worst wedding attire faux pas for Charity’s wedding was when my brother, Wesley, only had flip flops to wear with his dress pants for the rehearsal dinner. He had also forgotten dress shoes for my wedding though, so I suppose fair is fair.
Jesus told a story about a different kind of wedding. Once again, today we are being brought into the world or parables, with all of the exaggeration and allegory parables bring. It is not a direct narrative, a historical retelling of events that happened, but a story to open our minds, bring truth and understanding to us. Parables tell us about God and about what the kingdom and realm of God is like. Parables help us do this thing that we can’t help but do when we get close to the holy, we have to talk around it a bit, using all the creativity and metaphor at our disposal.
Hear this parable again:
22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
We can learn a few things about God from this, but the one that sticks out to me is how attentive God is as a host. God cares about the details. When we think about divinity, the holy, who God is, there’s a line of theology that has placed God as separate, other, and quite uninterested in what humanity is up to. This is not the case if we are to trust Jesus’s parable.
God is an attentive host. God care about the details. It matters if this one man is out of place, so much so that we are certainly tempted to ask, does it really matter what this guy is wearing?
And I say to you, ask the bride of the wedding where one of the guests wore white.
What we learn from this parable and other parables is that God does care about the individual. It’s the one lost sheep out of a hundred, the one lost coin who bring great joy. In the gospel of Matthew there are two different stories about yeast, that tiny bit of yeast that spreads. In one story, the yeast is good, in the other the yeast represents the Pharisees. It is the small that spreads, that has influence. The gospel of Matthew is also the gospel that is strict in tell what to do with the sin and the people who do follow the way of Christ. As Matthew 18:9 says, “And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.” And the person who would not repent is to be cut off from the church. This is all in Matthew 18--look it up.
One person, one idea, one moment--good or bad it is that one small thing that can affect lives.
Ask Josh how one person can ruin a marching band. Talk to me about what shoes I wear when I want to feel powerful. One question stars a lifelong relationship, one mutation changes the course of evolution, one protest sparks a movement.
And God is not oblivious to the way our lives work. God is attentive to the details of our lives. God knows, as we must now know, that to build the realm of God will take consideration of all that we put into it. If the realm of God is to be a place of welcome, of love and compassion, for children, for the outcasts, for all who seek refuge, why would God not be vigilant about the details? God is an attentive host for those that God loves.
Our attentiveness to the details of our lives in response is a way to honor God, the host extraordinaire, the one we give deference in judgment and retribution to. We are to be good guests, to be thoughtful.
I take these flashes of God’s judgment, the brief glimpses of outer darkness we get in scriptures like these, as moments to trust God’s vision for God’s world above my own. It is not to encourage or revel in the judgment God brings, but to be grateful that God is paying attention and cares in such a way to create a world that prioritizes those whom we have forgotten.
God is creating and building a world where the best can be spread, where the lost sheep and the little children take center stage, where joy is protected and honored. God is offering a feast and celebration, one without wedding crashers. One that looks a little bit more like this, love and hopefully for what is to come.